Armed separatists have stormed the Chinese Consulate in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi, triggering an intense hour-long shootout during which seven were killed.
Among those dead were two Pakistani civilians, two police officers and all three assailants, including one who was wearing a suicide vest, Pakistani officials said.
The brazen assault, claimed by a militant group from the southwestern province of Baluchistan, reflected the separatists’ attempt to strike at the heart of Pakistan’s close ties with major ally China, which has invested heavily into road and transportation projects in the country, including in Baluchistan.
The Baluch Liberation Army said it was fighting “Chinese occupation” and released photos of the three attackers.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China would not waver in its latest big project in Pakistan – the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor – and expressed confidence that Pakistan could ensure safety. Still, China asked Pakistan to beef up security at the mission.
Authorities said the dead civilians were a father and a son who were picking up their visas for China.
The consulate’s diplomats and staff were unhurt and were evacuated to a safe place, senior police official Ameer Ahmad Sheikh said. A spokeswoman at the Jinnah Hospital said a consulate guard was wounded and was being treated there.
The attack began shortly after 9am when the consulate was open for business. The militants fired at consulate guards and hurled grenades, breaching the main gate and entering the building, said Mohammad Ashfaq, a local police chief.
Armed separatists have stormed the Chinese Consulate in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi, triggering an intense hour-long shootout during which seven were killed. (EPA)Authorities said the dead civilians were a father and a son who were picking up their visas for China. (EPA)
Pakistani security forces quickly surrounded the area. Local TV stations broadcast images showing smoke rising from the building, which also serves as the residence of Chinese diplomats and other staff.
Multiple blasts were heard soon afterward but Sheikh could not say what they were. The shootout lasted for about an hour.
“Because of a quick response of the guards and police, the terrorists could not” reach the diplomats, Mr Sheikh said after the fighting ended.
“We have completed the operation.”
He added that authorities would try to identify the assailants through fingerprints.
Mr Geng, the Chinese spokesman, said the attackers did not get into the consulate itself, and that the exchange of fire took place outside the building.
The brazen assault, claimed by a militant group from the southwestern province of Baluchistan, reflected the separatists’ attempt to strike at the heart of Pakistan’s close ties with major ally China. (EPA)
The discrepancy with the Pakistani officials’ reports could not be immediately reconciled.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi spoke to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi by phone and assured him that a “thorough investigation will be carried out to apprehend the perpetrators their financiers, planners and facilitators” linked to the attack on consulate, according to a foreign ministry statement.
It quoted Yi as saying that the attack was an attempt to impact Pakistan China relations and to harm the two countries’ economic pact.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the attack and praised the Karachi police and the paramilitary rangers for their courage.
He also ordered an investigation and vowed that such incidents would never be able to undermine relations with China, which are “mightier than the Himalayas and deeper than the Arabian Sea”.
Nine News / Associated Press